As part of The Lawyer’s 20th anniversary celebrations, we’re launching the legal profession’s Hall of Fame. This is the first instalment: it continues next week
A pioneer of the institutional panel and high-profile advocate of the professionalisation of the in-house function. Laurie Adams has wielded huge influence in the 1990s and early part of this decade, first as a senior in-house lawyer at Lehman Brothers, then as the first European general counsel for Citigroup, leading a combined Citibank, Salomon Smith Barney and Schroders legal department.
Lord Alexander QC
Bob Alexander was an all-round barrister of the old school. He took silk in 1973 and was chairman of the Bar Council in 1985-86, during which time he campaigned against allowing solicitors rights of audience. Arguably his greatest achievement was chairing the Takeover Panel between 1987 and 1989, during the biggest frenzy of dealmaking the City had ever seen.
Not all great law firm leaders have to be extroverts. Tony Angel’s dogged and farsighted restructure of Linklaters raised the bar for the entire magic circle and helped redefine the position of UK firms in relation to their US competitors – an enormous single achievement. Nor were his reforms purely with profit in mind – his tenure marked a new holistic approach to technology and people management.
Dame Mary Arden
A female pioneer among commercial barristers, Dame Mary Arden took silk in 1986 and was appointed to the High Court in 1993, becoming the first female High Court judge to be assigned to the Chancery Division. In 1996 she was appointed the first female chair of the Law Commission. She was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 2000. In recent times she has spoken out in favour of more family-friendly, flexible working hours and greater transparency in the judicial appointments process.
After spending seven years at the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, Christopher Bellamy returned to the UK to help set up the Competition Appeal Tribunal in 1999, of which he was president until 2007. A controversial figure – particularly for giving the Office of Fair Trading a rough ride – he became known for his detailed and forensic approach.
The father of modern libel lawyering, the flamboyant Oscar Beuselinck was an all-round litigator who left school at 14. After the war he joined the struggling Wright Webb Syrett and built it up into a leading showbusiness practice. He gained Private Eye and half of Fleet Street as clients and his firm gave birth to a truly great generation of libel lawyers, such as Keith Schilling of Schillings, Philip Conway of Davenport Lyons and Harvey Kass of Associated Newspapers. The Lawyer commented in 1997 when he died: “Beuselinck always had guts. In a profession notorious for being mealy-mouthed, he publicly described one libel judge as a ‘wanker’, an opinion history has subsequently supported.”
Possibly the greatest-ever legal entrepreneur, Stanley Berwin set up not one, but two major City law firms, both of which bear his name. Berwin launched Berwin Leighton in 1970 and SJ Berwin in 1982. By the time of The Lawyer’s launch in 1987, both firms had already risen to prominence in the City. The next 20 years have seen them both play important roles in the redefinition of the successful City mid-tier. Berwin died in 1988.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman
The doyen of civil liberties, Sir Geoffrey Bindman was knighted this year for his work in the human rights field. And no wonder, as his contribution has been unparalleled, from being legal adviser to the Race Relations Board (later the Commission for Racial Equality) from 1966 to 1983, to working for innumerable human rights organisations, both domestic and international. Bindman has devoted much of his career to the cause of free speech, most notably defending Private Eye against one of its most aggressive foes, Jimmy Goldsmith, who launched more than 60 libel claims against the magazine.
A straight-talking Law Lord noted for his communication skills, Lord Bingham first came to public notice with the publication of his report into the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which helped create a more rigorous regulatory culture. He became Master of the Rolls in 1992 and Lord Chief Justice in 1996.
Peter Birks, who died in 2004, was one of the outstanding post-war British jurists. His academic brilliance – particularly on the subject of restitution and unjust enrichment, on which he was an authority – was equalled by his personal commitment to the teaching of law and his ability to inspire generations of students at Oxford. A sceptic regarding law conversion courses, he was nevertheless instrumental in the establishment of the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice, the collaboration between University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes.
Now senior partner at SJ Berwin, Jonathan Blake arguably created the discipline of private equity funds lawyering. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s at SJ Berwin he made his name on a series of fundraisings that defined the industry. Even today there are few lawyers who can rival him.
Mr Justice Blake
Nicholas Blake QC, as he was then, was one of the founding members of Matrix Chambers in 2000 – one of the most influential new chambers of the past two decades. As management committee chair he decided which tenants would come to join Matrix. They included Cherie Booth QC and Ken MacDonald QC. The formation of Matrix caused a huge shake-up at the bar, with New Court Chambers folding. Many attributed the dissolution of the set to defections to Matrix. But the Matrix legacy is wider in that the practice of human rights in the 21st century had a demonstrable professional focus at the bar.
The most celebrated corporate lawyer of his generation in the most celebrated deals machine in the City, Nigel Boardman has dominated M&A lawyering for a decade. As a partner at Slaughter and May – and for many years head of corporate until he got bored of “counting paper clips” – Boardman epitomises the Slaughters approach to client service. Not only does he continue to put most other City lawyers in the shade when it comes to energy and responsiveness, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was left licking its wounds when Boardman defended Marks & Spencer from Philip Green’s bid in 2004.
Martin Bowley QC
The treatment of gay and lesbian lawyers may be high up the workplace agenda now, but in the 1990s, an era of Section 28 and before civil partnership, few voices were raised. Martin Bowley QC was one of the few senior lawyers who were publicly out and who were committed to get the legal profession – particularly the bar – to tackle the issue.
Lady Justice Butler-Sloss
Lady Justice Butler-Sloss, who retired this year, was the first-ever woman appointed as a Lady Justice of Appeal in 1988, having chaired the Cleveland child abuse inquiry in the previous year. In 1999 she became the first female president of the Family Division of the High Court of Justice and for years was the highest-ranking woman judge in the UK. Now a life peer, she was also the first member of the new QC selection panel.
George Carman QC
Up until his death in 2001 George Carman was almost the only silk anyone outside the law had heard of. A criminal barrister by training, his breakthrough case was the acquittal of Jeremy Thorpe in 1970s. He went on to build the greatest reputation for libel work at the bar for clients such as Elton John, Imran Khan, The Sun and The Guardian. Claimants and defendants alike would rush to instruct him first, and his ability to pull rabbits from a hat was legendary. A flawed individual perhaps, but one of the greatest courtroom performers of his generation.
Should Peter Carter-Ruck really be in a Hall of Fame? Detested by Private Eye, which loved to bait him by calling him Carter-Fuck and Farter-Cuck, his extraordinary aggression was best suited to an era before mediation. His departure from his eponymous firm was as colourful as his letters before action. And yet Carter-Ruck probably deserves a place in the Hall of Fame for epitomising everything Fleet Street loathes. For a while he was undeniably effective on behalf of his clients. And how many lawyers get not one, but two Private Eye nicknames? Carter-Ruck died in 2003.
Shami Chakrabarti was called to the bar in 1994 and worked as a lawyer in the Home Office from 1996 to 2001. Since then she has become the best-known spokesperson for civil liberties in the country through her role as director of human rights organisation Liberty, which she assumed in 2003. It has coincided with an intense debate over the balancing of personal liberty and security. An accomplished communicator, her campaigning work on detention without trial and identity cards has brought these issues to national attention.
When it comes to M&A, David Cheyne has done it all. From hostile bids to pioneering schemes of arrangement, the Linklaters senior partner has been one of the biggest dealmakers in the City during the past two decades. His work on Vodafone’s successful bid for Mannesmann in 2000 helped change European dealmaking forever.
Louise Christian, senior partner of London legal aid firm Christian Khan, is one of the most accomplished campaigners working in civil liberties and personal injury. She has worked tirelessly for families of rail crash victims in particular. She also chairs Inquest, the group that operates a service for those bereaved after a death in custody.
Lord Justice Lawrence Collins
Lawrence Collins was an eminent litigation partner at Herbert Smith, but his fame rests much on his achievements in the latter part of his career. He became one of the first solicitors to be awarded silk and was then appointed to the bench.
In 1982 John Cornwell, now senior partner at Dawson Cornwell, founded the Solicitors Family Law Association (now called Resolution) in a bid to change the way lawyers went about resolving family disputes. In the course of the next two decades, the development of its code of practice moved from having no teeth to be being adopted everywhere; courts in family disputes are now mandated to consider not just the steps in proceedings, but the way they are carried out. Cornwell’s farsighted move has benefited thousands of separating couples.
A corporate lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer of the same vintage as Tim Jones and Vanessa Knapp, Harriet Creamer was the first person at a major City firm to become a knowledge management lawyer and then partner with responsibility for that area. Before Creamer, the concept of a professional services lawyer was hazy at best. Creamer’s move gave the job much-needed status and the role has since been taken up by innumerable City firms.
Possibly the best-known Court of Appeal judge of the 20th century, Lord Denning was better known for his judgments based on his own ethical views than previous common law rulings. One of the first judges to write in plain English, Denning was above all a communicator. Although dubbed as a representative of old-fashioned imperial British justice, one of his greatest legacies was the creation of a deserted wife’s equity.
Undoubtedly one of the most effective law firm leaders of the past decade, Neville Eisenberg’s understated manner has masked a forensic application of theory to practice. Excellent at talent-spotting – not just lawyers, but all senior professional staff – he dragged Berwin Leighton Paisner out of the drabs of 2001 into being one of the classiest firms in the City. In doing so he helped energise the mid-tier as a centre of excellence.
The first man ever to set up an accountancy-tied law firm, Colin Garrett lent his name to the UK arm of Andersen Legal, which was the first attempt at creating a multidisciplinary practice, one of the most controversial issues in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Garrett was far removed from the typical Andersen clone; his interests include making and playing violins in his spare time. The Andersen Legal experiment eventually collapsed in 2002 in the wake of Enron, but by that time it had grown to 163 lawyers in the UK and spawned copycat operations by the other big accounting firms.
Janet Gaymer was Simmons & Simmons’ second-ever female articled clerk in 1969 and rose to become the firm’s senior partner 22 years later – becoming the first female senior partner at a top 10 City firm. Gaymer was one of the most eminent employment law practitioners for years and set up the Employment Lawyers Association. In 2001 she chaired the Employment Tribunal System Taskforce and is currently the commissioner for public appointments.
Lord Peter Goldsmith QC
Whether you agree or not with Lord Peter Goldsmith QC’s advice as Attorney General to the Government over Iraq, he has been a pivotal figure in the past decade. He was the youngest-ever chairman of the bar in 1995, having already drawn up a report on the future of the young bar. Crucially, he has been an energetic proponent of pro bono and was co-chair of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute.
Tony Grabiner QC
Tony Grabiner QC is the classic poster boy for meritocracy at the bar. The son of an East End fur-cutter, he has had a stellar career and developed a terrifying courtroom reputation in the 1990s. His clerks made the most of it, pricing him way above the market at £800 per hour. In 1999 he was made a life peer with the title Baron Grabiner of Aldwych in the City of Westminster.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner John Grieves was not only one of the top M&A rainmakers in the 1980s, with deals that shaped much of the corporate legal landscape, but he became the first managing partner of any major City firm to have serious executive power. Instrumental in shaping Freshfields’ direction in the early part of the 1990s, his influence therefore extended across the top City firms. After Grieves, it was clear that even blue-blooded outfits had to get serious about strategy.
Lady Brenda Hale
Lady Brenda Hale (Baroness Hale of Richmond) was called to the bar in 1969 and has spent her life as a pioneer. She was the first and youngest woman to join the Law Commission, the second woman to join the Court of Appeal (1999) and the first woman to join the Law Lords. She is best known for her outspoken comments about women in the legal profession, from her work in 1984 when she wrote Women and the Law – the first comprehensive survey of women’s rights at work, in the family and in the state – to her comments when elected to the House of Law. Hale said she wanted “to see changes in the way society is organised, rather than wanting women to conform to male-determined roles”.
A lawyer who has come to personify the modern breed of general counsel, Mark Harding has not only been internally influential in one the UK’s biggest banks, but in his role as founding chair of the GC100 he articulated the concerns of all in-house lawyers in FTSE companies. One of his biggest legacies will be his success in putting diversity at the top of the client agenda – something that will shape law firm-client relations for years to come.
David Hershman QC
David Hershman QC, who died in 2004 at the tragically early age of 45, was one of the outstanding family law advocates of his generation. He came to prominence early in his career with the publication in 1991 of Children Law and Practice, a guide to the Children Act of 1989. Family lawyers say he was on his way to becoming one of the greats in his field.
After the euphoria of the 1987 merger, Clifford Chance had to face the recession. Luckily it had Geoffrey Howe at the helm – the man who turned law firm management into a discipline. For the decade that he ran Clifford Chance, Howe took the firm into the heart of the City establishment and steered it into becoming one of the biggest brands in the legal profession. One of the big beasts in the law, Howe subsequently became group general counsel of Robert Flemings until its takeover by JPMorgan. He has become one of the few former law firm partners to make an independent business career, having been chair of Railtrack and now Nationwide Building Society.
The gutsiest of all in-house libel lawyers, Harvey Kass’s ballsy tenure at Associated Newspapers has sustained a strongly investigative journalistic culture. He has been an outspoken campaigner against the abuse of conditional fee arrangements and has been an important voice for the press. Kass also launched a scheme to give pro bono defamation and human rights advice to less privileged journalists and newspapers in developing Commonwealth countries.
As the man who pretty much invented acquisition finance lawyering as a discipline in the 1990s, Tony Keal’s highly aggressive style was undoubtedly not to everyone’s taste. But his early identification and promotion of acquisition finance as a recognisable discipline gave rise to a powerful generation of banking lawyers in the City.
Sir Sidney Kentridge QC
Possibly the most revered man at the bar. Kentridge was called to the bar in Johannesburg in 1949 at the beginning of Apartheid and came to the fore in the civil rights movement of South Africa, representing many black activists, including Nelson Mandela, who was a key member of the defence in the infamous treason trial, and Steve Biko. In 1977 he came to England and built a practice from scratch, covering a huge variety of cases, and gained silk in 1984. He has acted for the Government, for the Serious Fraud Office and argued before the European Court of Human Rights.
Imran Khan represented Neville and Doreen Lawrence, the parents of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, throughout their fight with the Metropolitan Police and, in their eyes, the British judicial system. Khan’s work, alongside Michael Mansfield QC’s, ensured that his and the Lawrences’ key aim – to obtain an admittance of institutional racism within the police – stayed within the public’s and profession’s mind.
An object lesson in vision, Nigel Knowles shows what can be achieved with imagination and drive. He became equity partner at a Sheffield firm named Broomheads in 1985, which merged with Dibb Lupton of Leeds in 1988. He was head of corporate until 1996, when he became managing partner of Dibbs, which he took into a merger with Alsop Wilkinson. He then led a ferocious international push and transatlantic merger to create DLA Piper. Knowles famously said in 1993: “I think we should reverse into Clifford Chance and impose our management on them.” That the notion does not now seem risible is a tribute to how far he has taken the firm.
THE CRITERIA: qualified lawyers (which unfortunately rules out influential figures such as Sir David Clementi and Alan Hodgart) who have been pioneers, either in the law or in the practice of it. Some choices will be controversial; others will be pleasingly obvious.
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